Keanan Duffty talks to recent Academy of Art University graduate Jessica Singer. Jessica just began her first job as an assistant buyer for woven tops at Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia. Jessica tells us why she loves San Francisco and relays some of the most important things she learned during her time as a student at Academy of Art University.
Keanan Duffty: What drew you to Urban Outfitters?
Jessica Singer: What drew me to Urban is the idea that it is a lifestyle brand. Fashion is more then just clothing, its what you hear, see, feel, eat, think, etc. I couldn’t see myself working for a brand that takes itself too seriously, so Urban was a good fit.
KD: What is your job description?
JS: I am an assistant buyer for woven tops. Basically I manage/approve samples, work on the open to buy and buy plan, handoff samples to be shot in the photo studio, and I communicate with vendors, allocators, and planners.
KD: Tell me a little bit about your work experiences so far.
JS: I worked in Urban Outfitters stores for three years while I was in school at Academy of Art University. I think that really helped me understand the UO customer. I also interned with Urban Outfitters the summer before my senior year. I had a lot of the same responsibilities interning that I do now as an assistant buyer, so that made the transition a little easier.
KD: What were the most important things you learned at Academy of Art University?
JS: There are two important things that I will always remember from Academy of Art University. (I’m paraphrasing) On my last day of my introduction to buying class, my teacher, Karen Hook, told me “As a buyer, you aren’t buying for yourself, you are buying for the customer.” And another great thing I learned was from another amazing woman, Hersha Steinbock, she told us to “use other people’s money” (Referring to business).
KD: What are some of the fun things about San Francisco?
JS: This is a really hard question because there are so many amazing things about San Francisco; I loved living there and I miss it already. It is one of the best cities in the world and I really believe if you treat it well, it will return the favor. North Beach is one of my favorite places in SF. There is so much history there; you can sit at a sidewalk café for hours just taking in the scenery. There are amazing museums, some of the best thrift stores in the country (‘Held Over’ in the Haight, ‘Painted Bird’ in the Mission are two of my favorites), and everywhere you go you will be inspired by the people, buildings, sounds and feelings. Also go to Oakland! Oakland is just as amazing as SF.
KD: What’s your biggest fashion indulgence?
JS: I am a sucker for anything vintage. If it’s old, I love it, and if it’s in good condition its even more tempting. The most money I have ever spent on a fashion item was last year when I was in New York; I went to an amazing shop called Trash and Vaudeville and bought a brand new pair of Underground Pointed Toe Creepers. I will love those forever.
KD: What is your inspiration, right now?
JS: I am always inspired by the past. Right now I am really into pin-up and 1940s pulp comics. I also really love Sailor Jerry and what he represented. Teddy girls and boys are always inspiring to me, as well as rockabilly culture.
KD: What is your motto?
JS: It is hard to say, I have many. One that is always in the back of my mind is a quote from the movie SLC Punk, “The only way to beat the system, is to be in the system.”
KD: What advise would you give to students who are graduating within the next year?
JS: Capitalize on your passion. You can fake a lot of things in this world but you can never fake passion. Also remember that there isn’t anything you can’t do. No one is above anyone, no one is better than anyone-we’re all just people.
KD: Where do you hope to be in a year from now?
JS: I tend to think extremely far into the future, so in my head it is already a year from now. But in a year from now I hope to be doing really well as an assistant buyer, possibly on my way to an associate buying position. I just hope I am happy and still love what I am doing!
Interview conducted by Keanan Duffty